On 15 October, in honour of its memorable 450th anniversary, Vilnius University Library launched an online exhibit “Books and Non-Books” on Google Arts & Culture platform. The exhibition invites you to see the most interesting and spectacular documents kept in the library and with their help immerse yourself into an unforgettable story, which, as we anticipate, will shake your perception of the wold, at the same time keeping it quite incomprehensible.

The exhibition presents unique documents that have been collected over centuries – old books, photographs, maps, works and fragments of graphic arts – which in virtual environment will interact with visitors in unexpected ways through intriguing stories and even sounds.

Not limiting itself only to books, the exhibition will carry visitors over to the year 1209 by showing the earliest document kept in the library, which chronicles a vineyard being donated to monks in France. A curious exhibition traveller might stop at the 15th century in order to get acquainted with early scholarly ideas while turning over the pages of the famous treatise by Nicolaus Copernicus – or stroll around the tracks laid out in the maps of Claudius Ptolemy, the one person to break new ground in the history of Medieval cartography. The exhibition will offer a slightly different approach to the document most significant for the Lithuanian cultural identity – Martynas Mažvydas’ Catechism, as you will be able both to see and to hear it. While going through the pages of the Lithuanian Statute, an intriguing and very emotional inscription bearing a curse from the former owner will hopefully bring a coy smile to the peruser’s face. The old court books of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania will capture your attention as it is one of the most spectacular collection of historical documents both in terms of its content and physical appearance.

We hope that the book of cuttings (owner unknown) from the 19th century, kitab – a Tatar manuscript, or artistic heritage of the eminent Lithuanian graphic artists – such as illustrations to an epic Saint-John Perse’s poem Anabase created by Vincas Kisarauskas and notes by Žibuntas Mikšys – might become an exciting discovery for many visitors of the exhibition. The latter manuscript is of particular importance to the exhibition, as a note playfully written by its owner on the cover of the notebook – Books and Non-Books: What Is Placed Where – gave the inspiration for the title of the exhibition. It was owing to the efforts of Mikšys that quite a large part of documentary heritage of Lithuanians living abroad was delivered to Vilnius University Library; the collection donated by the artist himself contains around 5,000 books and pieces of art.

Many ‘non-books’ can be seen while browsing photographs of Vilnius Museum of Antiquities; yet how does the museum relate to the library and what other exhibits could be seen in this virtual tour, visitors are welcome to explore themselves.

Vilnius University Library, the oldest academic library in the Baltic States, was established by the Jesuits in 1570. An exhibition dedicated to the 450th anniversary has been launched on Google Arts & Culture platform that at present unites more than two thousand museums, galleries and various cultural institutions throughout the world. It is the second time that Vilnius University Library has been holding its exhibition in this network of art and culture representatives.

You are welcome to see the exhibition “Books and Non-Books” here:


Ramunė Gedvilaitė, 2020-10-15

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